Observer Comment: Safeguard the future of St Mary-in-the-Castle

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THE failure of the Myplace bid to turn St Mary-in-the-Castle into a youth hub for the town’s youngsters must be a bitter blow for everyone involved).

A multi-million pound grant would have safeguarded the future of the iconic seafront building.

St Mary-in-the-Castle has been the subject of much controversy in recent years. Back in early 2007, a decision by council bosses to grant the lease of the building to Sonrise Church provoked an angry backlash from the artists’ community.

There were accusations that the council had not been open and accountable in reaching its decision.

Since the church left, Barbara Rogers and her team took over and have worked tirelessly for nearly three years, making sure St Mary-in-the-Castle remained open.

But it’s not been easy for her and her crew, on tenterhooks for what must have seemed like an eternity, over whether she could continue to run the building, due to the ongoing delay on the decision over Myplace.

Members of Hastings Trust, the Youth Council and other interested parties put a lot of man hours setting up their case for the Myplace bid, first submitted in early 2009 - and now it seems it was all for nothing.

It is good that money is going towards renovating and restoring Hastings Pier and St Helen’s Church. But what about historical monuments like Hastings Castle and St Mary-in-the-Castle? They’ve not received a penny.

A solution needs to be found as soon as possible to safeguard the future of St Mary-in-the-Castle, which cannot be allowed to fall into disuse.

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NEWS that Network Rail is considering upgrading rail links to Brighton is certainly welcome. Shoddy transport links to London and Brighton have held Hastings back for too long.

The absurd commute to these cities, often on overcrowded trains with standing room only for tired workers, leaves local businesses stranded. Daytrippers, too, pass over a town that has so much to offer.

How many more London pirates would bring their gold to Hastings’ shops this carnival week if they did not face a four-hour round trip and a last train leaving at 10pm?

Hopes for improved road links were dashed last year when the Coalition Government shelved the Hastings to Bexhill link road scheme.

The plan had its critics, but represented a major investment in local infrastructure, and aimed at improving the economy of 1066 Country.

The delay and possible cancellation of the link road only highlights the struggle for better rail links.

This latest news, which could eventually result in faster trains speeding towards Brighton, is welcome, but pressure on Network Rail, and companies like Southern and South Eastern, must be maintained.

Hastings should support its local pressure groups, like the St Leonards and Hastings Rail Improvement Programme (SHRIMP) and their neighbours the Bexhill Rail Action Group (BRAG), as they fight to change the current situation. SHRIMP currently has just 83 friends on its Facebook group, but they deserve more.

They are the loudest local voice in a crucial battle for Hastings to get the transport links it deserves.

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IT IS great to see such enthusisam for the Olympics in the town already. There was a real buzz as people flocked to The Stade to have their photo taken with a prototype of the 2012 torch and to find out more about the history of the Games.

Most said they would definitely be watching the Olympic torch Relay when it passes through Hastings next year, and hopefully the event has encouraged people to nominate someone in their community as a torch bearer.